Recounts the biggest bank fraud in history, detailing BCCI's rise and fall, as well as the personalities involved.
The first book on the Bank of Credit and Commerce International as the depository institution of choice for drug-dealers, gun-runners, terrorists, and other lawbreakers. Despite a comparatively narrow focus, the painstakingly documented text sets a high standard for the many entries sure to follow. Adams (a former Forbes editor) and Frantz (coauthor, Selling Out, 1989, etc.) devote the bulk of their report to a successful undercover investigation mounted by the US Customs Service in southern Florida. The sting operation broke up a money-laundering ring and produced hard evidence of BCCI's illicit activities long before government agencies in seven countries closed the bank's doors last summer. The authors nonetheless make a good job of recounting how the Arab-owned, Pakistani-run bank (founded in 1972) was organized to evade oversight by any one nation's regulatory authorities. Achievement of this objective, Adams and Frantz show, gave BCCI stewards more than enough rope to hang themselves as they resorted to Ponzi schemes, pitching shady accounts with secret ledgers, and other crimes to keep pace with the demands of investors or their cronies for credit and cash. BCCI apparently did a fair amount of legitimate business as well, but audits commissioned by the Bank of England finally exposed the extent of its deficits and misconduct, making a shutdown inevitable. The authors leave little doubt that BCCI was able to suborn or use pillars of the financial and political community in its zeal to expand, typically on the basis of undeclared equity interests. The ranks of the tarnished encompass the likes of Jimmy Carter, Clark Clifford, and Bert Lance. This sorry tale is not without heroes, though, including Sidney Bailey (Virginia's commissioner of financial institutions), Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and New York City's D.A., Robert Morgenthau. The collapse of BCCI's house of marked cards seems certain to attract further editorial attention. Meanwhile, Adams and Frantz offer a primer that promises to measure up against further coverage. (Kirkus Reviews)